STAMFORD, Conn. -- A prominent local Muslim said that ISIS has "hijacked" his religion as he made a plea during a forum Saturday in Stamford for people to surmount differences and respect one another's humanity.
"Whether we like it or not, ISIS has hijacked our religion," Dr. Kareem Adeeb said. "ISIS is working in the name of Islam and Islam has nothing to do with it."
Adeeb spoke at a forum that brought together local Muslims and members of the LGBT community in response to the mass shooting at the gay club in Orlando last weekend. A total of 49 people were shot to death and 53 wounded by Omar Mateen, who pledged allegiance to ISIS.
The forum was held at the Rainbow Café Meeting Room in the First Congregational Church. It was organized by U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal with U.S. Rep. Jim Himes.
Adeeb, of the American Institute for Islamic and Arabic Studies and president of the Board of Directors of the Interfaith Council of Southwestern Connecticut, said people need to overcome their differences.
“Was Adam Jewish or Christian or Muslim? Was he American or Russian or Lebanese?" he asked. "He was human. Humanity trumps everything. You are our our bothers and sisters in humanity.”
Adeeb proudly noted he was the first Muslim in the United States to head an interfaith council. He said he has been urging all Muslims that he comes into contact with to register to vote.
"The people who are helping us and helping this nation fulfill its potential need your help to be re-elected," he told the packed room.
Murphy, who staged a nearly 15-hour filibuster on the floor of the Senate this week to force Republicans to hold votes on gun control regulations, said changing laws is only part of the solution.
"My desire is to end the hatred that exists and the discrimination, the thoughtlessness that exists on an everyday basis.”
Murphy, Blumenthal and Himes drew applause and a standing ovation from the 100 people in attendance for their actions in Washington. Himes walked out of a moment of silence for the Orlando victims in the House of Representatives because he believes that Congress should act on gun violence.
Blumenthal, who helped Murphy with the filibuster, isn't confident that the gun measures will pass when the vote comes Monday. One amendment would prevent suspected terrorists from acquiring guns, and the other would expand background checks.
Farhan Memon, chairman of the Council of American Islamic Relations-Connecticut, said everyone should work together on the issue.
"We come from all different parts of the world. We have so many cultures and so many faiths here in America and the only way we can make America work is to make it work together and for each other," he said.